War of Beacons

We have seen a lot of rivalry and battles among top brands, through the medium of advertising - a few memorable ones would be - Coca Cola versus Pepsi, Dell versus HP or Samsung versus Apple! One unnoticed war or should we say a cold war, is the one that is happening between Apple and Google for the beacon.

Colour Tunnel


There has been a lot of emphasis and traction in the market on adoption of the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)-based beacons, after the release of Bluetooth 4.0 specification. BLE-based beacons are simple to install, easy to maintain and can be used for implementing lost-and-found use cases, contextual advertising, location-awareness as well as safety and security features to name a few. There is no denying that BLE-based beacons are here to stay, but which ones will win the race is still a big question mark!

Here is the real story…
BLE – promoted as Bluetooth Smart - was firstly introduced under the name Wibree in 2006 by Nokia. However, the real action began in 2010, when BLE was merged into the main Bluetooth standard with the adoption of the Bluetooth Core Specification Version 4.0. Next year in 2011, Apple introduced it for the first time in iPhone 4S. Around same time, first Android NFC phone was also launched.

Two years later, in 2013, Apple introduced iBeacon protocol and subsequently, allowed various vendors to develop the iBeacon-compatible beacons. It also required vendors to register and get certified and licensed from Apple to use iBeacon. Apple has been quite stringent with the same and has gone to the extent of even removing the Android support from some of the vendor SDKs for iBeacon.
Four years on, now we see significant adoption of BLE beacons not only for communication with nearby objects but also for indoor positioning. Its original intent was only to implement proximity-sensing but technology enthusiasts found a better way of using it. Another important application of BLE beacons is getting the precise location, which is currently used to implement number of interesting use cases.

In 2014, Google came up with UriBeacons. These are also the BLE-beacons but instead of UUID, it uses the URL has a unique identifier. It is closer to QRCode/Barcodes functionality without the need for scanning them. UriBeacons enable the Physical Web – giving ability to everyday objects and physical things to connect to Web and can be extended to implement Internet of Things.
An Open Source alternative includes Alt beacons released from Radius Networks.

Here is a short comparison chart

LAUNCHED BY Apple spec Google spec Open-Spec ( Radius Network)
DATA SIZE 31 B 28 B 26 B
DATA STATE Static Advertising Data Static Advertising Data Dynamic Data in form of URI
APP AND DATABASE Required Optional Required

In our experience, we have found that the ibeacons at present are in a stronger position, as there are more hardware options available, work well with iOS and also work reasonably well with Android but who will win the final race still remains to be seen.

Aricent as a Trusted Partner for providing Mobile Enablement Services: Aricent offers end-to-end mobile enablement services to ISVs, enabling them to build location-based solutions and services. We also have a portfolio of mobility enabling software including Remote Testing Platform and Indoor Positioning Solution to accelerate development of various mobility solutions.

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